Man-made pollution and, above all, air pollution kill more people each year than Covid has killed in two years. The health impact of pollution remains enormous, with low- and middle-income countries bearing the brunt of this burden, he says. Richard Fuller, lead author of a report just published in The Lancet Planetary Health. In this work it is highlighted that pollution was responsible for nine million deaths in 2019, that is, one in six deaths was due to this problem. Most of it comes from air pollution, but there is also a significant part due to water and soil contamination.
This digit It easily exceeds the 6.27 million deaths that, over more than two years, has been caused by the Covid 19 pandemic.
The new report is a update of the one published in the same journal in 2015. It highlights that the number of deaths from pollution sources associated with extreme poverty (such as indoor air and water pollution) It has decreased. Nevertheless, deaths attributable to industrial pollution have increased (from ambient air and chemical contamination).
According to Fuller, “despite a well-documented increase in public concern about pollution and its health effects, attention to these issues and funding have increased minimally since 2015.”
“Ditch all fossil fuels”
“Pollution is the greatest threat to human and planetary health and endangers sustainability of modern societies. Its prevention can also curb climate change, says Philip Landrigan, co-author of the report and director of the Global Public Health Program and the Global Pollution Observatory at Boston College. Therefore, Landrigan stresses, the current report “calls for a massive and rapid transition away from all fossil fuels and replace them with clean and renewable energy”.
The new report provides updated estimates of the health effects of pollution, based on the most recent GBD data from 2019 and methodological updates, as well as an assessment of trends since 2000.
Of the nine million deaths attributable to pollution in 2019, the air pollution (both domestic and environmental) continues to be responsible for the largest number of deathswith 6.67 million worldwide. The water contamination was responsible for 1.36 million deaths premature. Lead contributed 900,000 deaths, followed by toxic occupational hazards with 870,000 deaths.
The decrease in deaths from traditional pollution since 2000 (air pollution in homes by solid fuels and non-potable water) is more evident in Africa. This can be explained by improvements in water supply and sanitation, antibiotics and treatments, and cleaner fuels, the authors say.
Industrial pollution and population aging
However, this decline in mortality has been offset by a substantial increase in deaths from exposure to industrial pollution, such as air pollution, lead contamination and other forms of chemical contamination, in all regions during the last 20 years. This is especially evident in Southeast Asiawhere increasing levels of industrial pollution are combined with an aging population and an increase in the number of people exposed.
Environmental air pollution was responsible for 4.5 million deaths in 2019, compared to 4.2 million deaths in 2015 and 2.9 million in 2000. Deaths from hazardous chemical pollutants increased from 0.9 million in 2000, to 1.7 million in 2015, and to 1.8 million in 2019, with 900,000 deaths attributable to lead contamination in 2019.
Usually, deaths from current pollution have increased by 66% in the last two decades, going from about 3.8 million deaths in 2000 to 6.3 million in 2019. Figures for deaths from chemical contaminants are likely to be underestimates, as only a small number of commercially manufactured chemicals have been subjected to adequate safety or toxicity testing.Economic losses and inequality
The report highlights that excess deaths due to pollution caused economic losses totaling 4.6 billion dollars in 2019, which is equivalent to 6.2% of world economic output. It also highlights the profound inequality of pollutionsince 92% of pollution-related deaths and the greatest burden of economic loss from this occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Creation of an independent scientific and political groupThe authors conclude with eight recommendations. Among them, the request creation of an independent scientific and political group, in the style of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as a increased funding for pollution monitoring by governments, independent donors and philanthropists, and improving pollution monitoring and data collection.
The international organizations tthey should also approve and establish a better connection between science and pollution policyas well as those dealing with climate and biodiversity, initially with chemicals, waste and air pollution.
“It is clear that pollution is a planetary threat and that its causes, its dispersion and its effects about healthtranscend local borders and demand a global response. A global action is necessary on all the main current pollutants”, highlights Rachel Kupka, co-author and executive director of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.
Reference study: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(22)00090-0/fulltext
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